And Power Corrupts

“These new models tend to be adopted without the demands for rigorous evidence required by traditional scholarship. If Euro-centrism is a fault, one would think Afro-centrism would be similarly narrow-minded. If patriarchy is wrong, why would matriarchy be any better? But these quibbles miss the point of postmodern scholarship. Truth is not the issue. The issue is power” (Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times, p. 57).

A Theology of the Table of Contents

“The problem with contemporary Protestants is that they have no real doctrine of the Table of Contents. With the approach that is popular in conservative evangelical circles, one simply comes to the Bible by means of an epistemological lurch. The Bible ‘just is,’ and any questions about how it got here are dismissed as a nuisance. But time passes, the questions remain unanswered, the silence becomes awkward, and conversions of seduced evangelicals to Rome proceed apace. But this is an inconsistency among modern Protestants and is not at all an inconsistency within the historic Protestant position. [Of] course, this should not surprise us; if Protestants do not understand the history of the Bible, how can we expect them to understand their own history as Protestants? The problem here is modernity, and not classical Protestantism” (Mother Kirk, p. 31).

Barbaric Lyricism

“Those who create the sacred with their own violence are incapable of seeing its truth. This is what makes the friends totally deaf to the appeals Job is constantly making. The more they participate in violence against the unfortunate man, the more they are carried away by their own barbaric lyricism and the less they understand what they are doing” (Girard, Job, p. 28).

Child Sacrifice

In the latter half of this twelfth chapter, we have some reiteration of earlier themes, as well as additional exhortion and instruction. “Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after . . .” (Deuteronomy 12:15-32).

The establishment of Yahweh worship did not mean that all animals had to be sacrificed to the Lord in order to be killed and eaten (v. 15). Animals could be slaughtered simply for food, and had the same status as game. The only restriction here was that the blood had to be poured on the ground (v. 16). The sacrifices presented to the Lord, and all associated ritual activity, had to be wherever God set His name (vv. 17-18). Again, the Levite was to be included (v. 19). Other than that, they could eat whatever they wanted (v. 20). They did not have to go to Jerusalem in order to eat meat (v. 21). Further, the ritually unclean is not excluded from sharing the roast (v. 22). Refrain from the blood and bless your descendents (vv. 23-25). The holy things are where God placed His name (v. 26-27). Obey, and sustain a blessing (v. 28). Do not be captured by those you have defeated in battle (vv. 29-30). Do not imitate their worship; they even sacrifice their children, which God hates (v. 31). In whatever God requires, do not add or subtract (v. 32).

Moses repeats what he has said in the first part of the chapter. The Israelites are to avoid worshiping as the Canaanites worshiped. They are to worship in the place where God sets His name, and nowhere else (vv. 17-18; 26-27). They are not to imitate the worshiping manner of the Canaanites either—they are not to worship the true God in a false manner (vv. 29-30). And the Levite was to be remembered (v. 19).

Moses then cautions against a very natural mistake. The sacrificial system of Israel was not intended to supply all their meat (vv. 15, 21-22). There was a ritual practice that excluded pagan sacrifices (v. 16), and which also recognized God as the author of life (vv. 23-25). But note that while eating meat was a result of sin, it is assumed as a normal thing among God’s people—with no more reason than that one wants to (v. 15). Notice also that we have a category of clean animals (suitable for eating) which were not used in the sacrifices of Israel. In a type, these can be considered as the God-fearers among the Gentile nations in the Old Testament.

The Canaanites had the horrific practice of sacrificing their children to their gods (v. 31). But in this fallen world, this is actually an inescapable concept. It is not whether we sacrifice our children, but which God we sacrifice them to, and what He requires of us in the sacrifice. We can identify a nation’s gods by noting where the nation sacrifices its children. In today’s abortion culture, our gods are clearly personal convenience and the right to choose. What many Christians do not realize is that this kind of abortion mentality is the only alternative to a biblical culture. Children will always be rendered to god; if we want it to be bloodless, then it must be the Christian God. He allows Samuel to be nurtured in the sanctuary.

We have already considered the strict misunderstanding of the regulative principle of worship. But at the same time, we must be careful. What God says to do, that we must do. What He prohibits, we must shun. We must do what He says to do, and not something else, and we must do it the way He says to do it (v. 32). But note that we are not to charge off to “obey” when we have not yet studied His Word and law carefully.

The applications are not hard to find. Enjoy yourself—why should you eat something? Well, once you have been disciplined by the Lord’s worship, you eat because you want to. You rejoice before the Lord, and you learn to rejoice in whatever you set your hand to. Pursue wisdom in your strict obedience—before we fight over “adding and subtracting” in our worship, we need to know our Bibles a lot better than we do. Render to God—God owns your children. Outside the one sanctuary of nurture and admonition are many Canaanitic sanctuaries. But you do not want your children there.

Everyone Loves a Parade

We know that formal liturgy is required by God, and that Paul told the Colossians that he rejoiced to hear of their good order. We also know that He has fashioned the creation in such a way that liturgy of some sort is inescapable. Every congregation of Christians in the history of the world has developed a liturgy, whatever they call it.

But a peculiar temptation confronts those who formalize that liturgy, and who are conscious of what they are doing. The apostle Paul speaks of those who have the form of religion without the substance. The prophets of the Old Testament are fierce in their denunciations of those who like to prance through the ceremonies and sacrifices that God commanded. God responds to them with a humiliating rebuke—”who required of you this trampling of my courts?” He goes on to say that He cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly together.

And yet, there is a particular kind of fleshly, religious mind which likes to hide its sin inside the liturgy. This is a far cry from placing your sins under the blood of Christ. The more forms there are to memorize, the less someone has to actually think about how they are living. Incense is attractive because it covers up the stench of self-will. Parades are popular because everyone loves a parade.

But we are here to meet with God. We are here to be knit together into a new humanity, into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not here to hide from Him. So come in true liturgical humility and true evangelical faith.

A Weekly Deadline

When we gather together, we must remember the wisdom and grace of God.

In an assembly like this, there must be countless offenses, grievances, hurts, misunderstandings, and more. These are knots that should not be untied; the more we try to untie them, the worse we make it. God’s way is far simpler. Love dissolves all such tangles—it even dissolves the rope.

Jesus tells us that when we remember that our brother has something against us, we are to leave our gift at the altar, and go make it right. This has application to the Lord’s Supper, but not the direct application that is readily assumed. The Lord’s Supper is not our gift to God, but rather His gift to us. If you realize that someone has a grievance against you, then put your tithe envelope back in your pocket, and then go, make it right—so far as it depends on you. The Lord said to leave your gift on the altar; He did not say to leave the bread and wine there.

So should you refrain from the Lord’s Supper if you realize that someone has a grievance against you? The short answer is no. But if you know that they have this grievance, and you are unwilling to make peace, then notify the elders of the dispute, along with your unwillingness to reconcile, and they will consider suspending you from the Supper. But if you want peace, and the situation is difficult, you need strength for the task. Take the Lord’s Supper, with the necessary reconciliation in mind. But having taken it, hasten to make peace. Do not let the sun go down on it.

At the same time, if a dispute arises in the course of the week, you know that this Supper is coming. Resolve the dispute before the day of communion arrives. Do not provoke the Lord to jealousy by postponing what you know to be your duty. But if the Supper brings something to mind, then take your nourishment. You will need the strength.

In short, let the Supper serve as a weekly deadline for all reconciliations, and let it also serve as an encouragement and impetus to future reconciliations attempted.

Puritan Poetry: Crammed With Images

“The fear of graven images was an obsession with the Puritans. Like most of their obsesssions, however, it resulted, not in the childish dogmatism imputed to them by nineteenth-century commentators, but in a consistent system of clear, taut, definitions and distinctions . . . A verbal idol, such as might be found in poetry, would be as great a sin as a material idol carved in stone. For that reason, Puritan poetry was clearly influenced by the fear of idolatry; to understand the poetry, we must examine the fear. We have seen that Puritan poets did in fact write and read image-filled poetry. We need to know why they felt they could. We need to know how they defined and recognized an idol” (Daly, p. 45).

Choosing Your Own Designer History, One That Works for You

“Since there is no objective truth, history may be rewritten according to the needs of a particular group. If history is nothing more than ‘a network of agonistic [i.e., fighting, contending] language games,’ then any alternative ‘language game’ that advances a particular agenda, that meets ‘success’ in countering institutional power, can pass as legitimate history. ‘Performance, not truth’ is the only criterion. Scholarship becomes rhetorical manipulation. Truth does not have to get in the way.” (Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times, p. 50).